All SHP News Commentary October 26, 2022

Medical Malpractice Law — Doctrine and Dynamics

David Studdert, a professor of health policy and professor of law, writes in this New England Journal of Medicine commentary that while clinicians face the specter of medical malpractice lawsuits, the number of paid claims against physicians has actually decreased by 75% in the past 20 years and looks at the the medical malpractice system and its impact on medical decision making.
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"When she turns 50, Ms. P. follows Dr. D.’s advice to have her first screening mammogram, which is negative. Dr. D. advises her to return “in a few years” for repeat screening. Twenty-seven months later, she is diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and sues Dr. D. At trial, an expert testifying for Ms. P. states that many doctors and consensus guidelines recommend mammograms annually or every 2 years for people Ms. P.’s age. Dr. D.’s expert testifies that a range of intervals is acceptable and that the local practice is to advise that, absent symptoms or family history, about every 2 or 3 years is sufficient.

Medical malpractice law is a species in the genus torts, part of civil law. Some tort claims address intentional acts (e.g., battery, defamation), but most involve one person suing another person or an institution for a physical injury allegedly caused by negligence. Malpractice claims against professionals take this form. Physicians are sued for negligence more than any other professional group, largely because medical care is intrinsically hazardous and frequently leads to bodily harm, tort law’s central concern."

Read the Full Perspective in The New England Journal of Mecicine



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